I hope this finds everyone well, safe, healthy and happy. As some of you may know, I went out to the Rockaways yesterday with my friends Melissa and Lizz to lend some helping hands and support to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Every year I see heart wrenching photos and news coverage of other areas in our world devastated by natural disasters, and I donate money hoping it's serving the victims right. Through media coverage, I watch others who are able to go and physically help out. Here in New York, we are new to things like this. Instead of donating money to the Red Cross or FEMA, those affected live so close that I am in a situation where I can actually collect and bring donations to the sorting sites and then head out with other volunteers to stand in the middle of a mess that once was a home, helping some victims to start picking up the pieces of this disaster. I, my family, and close friends are among the lucky out of the areas who have been hit in New York and nearby New Jersey. To have only experienced minor property damage, loss of electricity and heat, and little or no access to gas is a blessing. I think we can all agree that we are lucky. We have our homes.
It was extremely important to me to get out there and work with the community. Luckily, we've had access to the right people at Inter Occupy to send us towards the right direction. I am also fortunate to have like minded, self motivated and focused friends to join forces with in doing so, such as Melissa and Lizz, whose organizational skills, work ethics and desire to help those in need greatly exceed the norm. To add more gold to our pot, we met Sam at an Inter Occupy Sandy location in Sunset Park where they sort donations and send them out to distribution centers in which volunteers directly provide aid to the victims. Sam is a resourceful, hardworking, considerate recycled Boy Scout who happens to also be extremely funny while always remaining in a positive light; he really made our group complete and led us in the right direction in fulfilling our goals for the day. I really can't say enough great things about him and how fortunate we were to have him matched up with us. We all left feeling fulfilled, changed, and eager to to return to do more work as needed. To witness the aftermath of a hurricane disaster in "the flesh" for lack of a better term, was a first for me and I believe it safe to say it was a first for my friends too. They can correct me if I'm wrong.
What our day consisted of, in a nutshell, was helping to clean out left over flood water from basements, cleaning out remains of peoples apartments and then helping to organize and hand out supplies to those effected at St. Camillus Church. We took a break for fresh air to clear our lungs of the toxins that these poor people breathe in daily in what's left of their homes. During our walk we took a moment to observe what was going on around us, look at the beach and document some of the experience through photos and videos. I know that there are a lot of bad things going on around there; I've read about the looting and the mugging in the newspapers and a concerned acquaintance who is a resident of the area gave me a clear and thorough description of what's going on in some places. The advice she gave me, and I will pass onto you, is to not go in there blind. Know where you are going, who you are working with, have a plan. My friends and I had an exact starting point provided through Inter Occupy, were surrounded by other volunteers and we went there knowing exactly what we wanted to do. Based on my exposure, the community out there is lovely. People are working really hard to pull their lives together, are maintaining a positive light and really appreciate the support they are being given by surrounding communities, fellow victims, and volunteers. This is so admirable, considering that their home is a disaster site and they are in a state of devastation. I feel almost ashamed to admit how exhausted I was at the end of the day, and today even, when these people have to go through this on a daily basis now. My one day of volunteering was something and yet nothing when I think of what they are going through and the weeks my father spent in New Orleans after Katrina doing what we did and more, day in and day out, with little access to sleep and showers and witnessing so much tragedy all around him. Not that other disasters were ever unreal or nonexistent to me, but seeing it's aftermath first hand and interacting with people on their experience makes it surreal, makes me appreciate my given blessings even more and gives me a deeper respect and understanding of mankind in general. You find yourself in a place where people who normally wouldn't even interact with one another much are now coming together, really seeing a deeper side to one another, and helping eacother out. They, as well as the other devastated areas such as Staten Island and New Jersey, need our support as much as possible.
I will leave my post at that because my friends who were with me will be writing accounts of our trip that go more into detail and I will be adding the links to their blog posts on here once they've released them. In the meanwhile, you can check out their pages, Fun.Fit.Chic and The Inspired Idealist, by clicking on their name to lead to the sites and FB pages. I encourage you to please view the volunteer and needs updates by clicking on Inter Occupy. Here, you can also find safety information for volunteers and PLEASE donate to them if you can! They are making a lot happen for these victims in regards to immediate action and it's the community and surrounding communities (including people like you who have been donating items and time!) that's really giving the necessary support right now. As you will most likely read in the articles I will be sharing, it's not Red Cross and FEMA making it happen right now-it's the locals and the volunteers, it's NYPD, FDNY and the military that are there.
I didn't have much time to take pictures, but here are some I was able to get during the car drive and our walk during lunch. Please stay tuned for my shares from my friends blog, I will be posting it on my Facebook as well.
Thanks for reading
|The Military were working hard, as well as the FDNY and NYPD|
What remains of the boardwalk is pictured above. Below, my friend Melissa scoping out the area.
|Melissa scoping out the beach|
|This could be anyone of us at any given moment in this situation|
Views of fallen terraces and street ruins during our drive